2 Trinity 2009

Second Sunday After Trinity
June 21, 2009
Verse 18 of St. Luke 14:16-24
“Spoiled Children?”

Lakermania! Whether those 90,000 Laker fans that turned out this past Wednesday for the Victory parade had seen the Laker games in person, or watched them on television, all had invested countless hours out of their lives to follow the progress of their favorite team through the last season.

John Lennon of Beatles fame commented way back in the 1960’s that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus – a remark that angered many. Yet it is true they drew great crowds of people, in the tens of thousands. Whereas Jesus could muster 4,000 to 5,000 at best! And here the Lakers were able to draw 90,000 to turn up for their Victory Parade. And when in town they could regularly count on a sold out house to fill the 19,000 seats at Staples Center.

People are fascinated with sports and games that involve the moving of a ball: from one end of a field or a court to the other, or down a fairway or hardwood alley, on into a net or a hoop, by means of dribbling or rolling, throwing, striking or kicking, with all of the games’ activity segmented into quarters or innings or rounds, under defined restrictions of time (excluding time outs and extra innings). Why this fascination with moving a ball around?

Unless there happens to be an unbreakable tie, the result is always the same; someone wins and someone looses – the question seems only to be, by how much? Yet people seem never to tire of it. They pay good money for it. They’ll wait in line for hours to buy tickets for it and wait in longer lines to get a parking space for it.

For sure you won’t find people lining up in front of churches to get in. But some Christians will travel a great distance to get to a church. In parts of Africa, where many Christians live under fear of being arrested or martyred for their faith, nonetheless they will travel by foot for tens of miles, and for an hour or two or three, through intense heat, to get to church to offer their worship to God. We have only to step into our comfortable auto, rev up our high powered turbo engine, turn on or adjust the A/C, put it in gear and be on our way to get ourselves to Church on time.

But for an unknown reason once some folks get there, they are counting the minutes before they can leave there! Why the rush? Perhaps to be on time to attend a sporting event or go to a hit movie before the lines get too long, or to watch one or the other on television? Of course, special occasions will occasionally appear on the calendar. Today is ‘Father’s Day’ and we may wish to spend a goodly part of our time to with dear old dad, or to visit dad’s grave.

It is interesting to note that the average sports event may last anywhere from 1 ½ to 2 hours, and a typical movie can last anywhere from 1 hour 28 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes (Plus the extra time one must spend sitting through all those previews of coming attractions). But the amount of time required does not seem to matter all that much – as long as folks are being entertained: that is, amused, titillated, frightened or kept in suspense. Yes, one must be kept entertained: If only the church would do that for us too, lest we become bored!

On their way to the sports event, concert or movie, some folks will pull their car into line at a fast food hamburger stand for a ‘quick’ bite. One hamburger chain long ago recognized this sense of urgency and named its food-serving industry “In And Out.” We are constantly on a time schedule, after all! It seems, even with friends.

A friend enjoyed cooking and hosting. He’d often have friends come to his home for dinner. Unknown at first to him, they all had a ‘secret’ complaint: his meals took forever! Not to eat; but with regard to last minute preparations and cooking time. You see, about the time they were ready to dine, and still had something of an appetite, he would finally rise from his lounge chair to excuse himself and go into the kitchen to at last begin cooking the meal to be served. Somehow he got wind of the ‘secret’ complaint of his dinner guests and he decided to stop, not hosting the late suppers, but desist from inviting his familiar, now former, guests!

Alas, a segue for our consideration of the parable Jesus taught in this morning’s gospel. Which is about a kindly man who sent out a formal invitation to perhaps his closest of friends to cordially invite them to come to a grand supper. But at the very last moment, after everything had been prepared for the feast, they ALL chose to decline attending it.

Perhaps his dinners were always served late: too late to their taste! Perhaps that is why this time he had intentionally announced that for THIS supper, ‘all things were now ready.’ We hear their various ‘excuses’: which say ever so clearly, this would require too much of their valuable time, and more to the fact, they each had something else or something better to do with their time than come to his table.

Comparatively speaking, a church service may seem too long for some – but as compared to what? The length of a baseball game, that goes into extra innings? Or a Jacque Cousteau undersea documentary film, over at the Imax cinema? A gala celebration honoring a sports team for which one must wait hours in line, to then pack into a filled stadium or to watch the event on big-screen televisions in an arena parking lot? Or compared with the endless hours of precious time some folks waste every night sitting in front of the television set. Time that could be better spent reflecting on the blessings of the day, or offering prayers of thanksgiving that God even granted them another day!

The 4th Commandment says: Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath day. For Jews the observance began Friday at sundown into Saturday, being the last day of the week. For Christians, the Sabbath was moved and was observed on Sunday, in honor of the Lord’s Resurrection, being the first day of the week. For the Jew as for the early Christian (most of whom were Jewish converts) keeping holy the Sabbath was a full day observance. It involved corporate as well as private worship, it involved the reading of the sacred scriptures, and included quiet and reflection. Keeping holy the Sabbath required far more than one hour of one’s time out of the special day – the Sabbath observance involved and required the entire day!

But, quoting Jesus, ‘the Sabbath was made for man: not man for the Sabbath.’ As one who himself kept holy the Sabbath, his teaching never implied that the Sabbath was designed for man’s relaxation and entertainment: Jesus and his disciples kept it as a Divine observance!

In contemporary times, it is not the entire day that is asked of us. Hence, for our corporate worship of the Divine, it requires but one hour of our time (okay, at St. Mary’s, maybe 1 hour and 20 minutes). One hour out of the 168 hours God gives to us weekly, and 4 to 5 hours or so (depending on the number of Sundays in the month) out of the 720 hours He grants us monthly, or 52 hours or so of the 8,760 hours He grants annually. How little He requires out of all the time He grants us and allots us on earth: yet shortly after one hour has passed, some folks start feeling edgy! I guess they have ‘other’ things they have to do!

Yes, it is an ‘In And Out’ generation all right! Instant this; instant that! Haven’t got much time! Lets get through the liturgy with a minimal expenditure of our precious time, so that we may go off and do the many things we deem to be important and want to do with our time!

The problem with this thinking is: the Rector or pastor eventually is either asked or told to modify the worship time that belongs to God to better fit our time requirements and projects. The larger, more serious problem with such complaining is that God too hears it!

Just as He heard the unrest of the Children of Israel so many times during the Exodus. First they grumbled that they wanted to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt – back to slavery, where things were at least predictable. Next they grumbled about having no food – so God provided them daily with manna (‘bread from heaven’). Soon they grumbled that ALL they had to eat was manna and said, ‘We hate this manna!’ They grumbled too about not having water, so God led them to a pool of water, which they immediately grumbled about because it tasted bitter: so God sweetened it! There were other complaints and rumblings too! He is a patient, forgiving and merciful God: but patience has its limits: even with God! It is not that we fail to appreciate God’s kindnesses or that we disdain His favor, we just occasionally forget WHOSE time it really is, that we mistake as our own!

If we choose to turn a deaf ear to this fact, might we run the risk of eventually turning a deaf ear to His Invitation? For which, as the parable teaches, there are consequences. So today, being the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, wherein early Christians would expend some of the time reading then rereading the scriptures; without making excuse (even though it is Father’s Day), some time today could we simply reread today’s parable and also reflect on it? Surely, there is plenty of time for that!